06/05/2008, 00.00
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Mass arrests in "March of return"

by Nirmala Carvalho
Yesterday afternoon, 259 Tibetans and 6 members of the organising committee were taken away by authorities near Berinag, 160 kilometres from the border. The Tibetan leader of the march reiterates the intention of "reaching the goal" by overcoming "all obstacles".

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Yesterday, the Indian police arrested 259 Tibetans and 6 members of the organising committee who had resumed a short time before the "March of return to Tibet", blocked by security forces for 13 days.  The demonstrators had marched for 16 kilometres when they were stopped near Berinag, a village 160 kilometres from the border between India and Tibet.  Another 50 marchers, including the Tibetan activists  Tenzin Tsundue and Shingza Rinpoche of the monastery of Sera, had stayed behind at the base camp in Banspatan - in the state of Uttarakhand - with the intention of continuing toward Tibet if the first group were stopped.  In the meantime, the leaders and one coordinator of the five non-governmental organisations promoting the "March" are still imprisoned in Roshanabad, near Haridwar.

In an interview with AsiaNews, Tenzin Choedon, one of the spokesman of the Tibetan People's Uprising Movement, maintains that "The marchers are motivated, and these arrests and detentions have not dampened the spirit of the marchers.  We are very clear that our fight is not with the Indian government, and our intention is not to harm the Indian authorities". "In a freedom struggle", the Tibetan activist stresses, "there will be obstacles such as we are experiencing, and these have to be overcome. Ours is a non-violent mission, and we will return to Tibet". "The Beijing Olympic torch", Tenzin Choedon concludes, "is scheduled to pass through our Tibet on June 19th, and this is simply not acceptable".

After departing on March 10 (the anniversary of the Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959) from Mcloedganj, in Dharamsala, the headquarters of the Tibetan government-in-exile, the participants in the "March of return" - now about 300 people divided into various groups - want to arrive in Tibet on foot in conjunction with the beginning of the Olympics, on August 8.  Their journey has been repeatedly interrupted by the police, most recently yesterday afternoon at 3:30 local time, when a massive road block of security forces stopped the demonstrators.  In protest, they immediately crossed their arms and sat down, forming a human chain; they also began chanting slogans and singing songs calling for China to leave Tibet.  The Indian police arrested them, and at the moment it is not known where they have been taken.

Lhakpa Tsering, a member of the Tibetan Youth Congress, emphasises that "As China prepares to parade its Olympic torch through Tibet next week in a blatant attempt to legitimise its rule in Tibet, the increasing repression is compounding the Tibetan people's suffering under China's illegal occupation". "My only wish", the activist says, "is to reach Tibet and join my brothers and sisters. Even if I can't lessen their suffering, I can at least make sure the world knows about their suffering".

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Tibetan Olympic torch, sign of freedom and justice
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